In unusual electoral strategy, Trump declares war on must-win Michigan

In unusual electoral strategy, Trump declares war on must-win Michigan
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during the adjutant general change of responsibility ceremony, Lansing, Mich., Jan. 1, 2019 (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Andrew Layton/released).
Election '20

You have to admit that you didn't see this coming—but then again, Donald Trump has always employed some unconventional political tactics. Honestly, antagonizing a state that's absolutely essential to his reelection and that he won by the thinnest margin of any state he carried in 2016 is, well, unique.

Trump has been shadowboxing with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for several months now, trying to score a knockout punch as she focuses on trying to save lives in one of the states hardest hit by the coronavirus. But this week, Trump just went ahead and declared all-out war on the Great Lakes State, topping off his assault with a potshot at Ford Motor Company, arguably the state's most iconic business.

Here's a brief look at Trump's handiwork:

  • He threatened to withhold funding from Michigan, accusing Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson of "illegally" engaging in voter fraud by sending out absentee ballots to the state's registered voters. Only Trump got everything wrong: Benson was sending absentee ballot applications and, far from doing so illegally, she was doing so under the authority of a constitutional amendment passed by fully 67% of Michigan voters in 2018. In fact, Trump was the one on the wrong side of the law. As California Sen. Kamala Harris pointed out: "It is federal crime to withhold money from states with the purpose of interfering with people's right to vote, so you may want to talk with your lawyer Bill Barr about that."
  • Trump showed up at the Ford plant in Ypsilanti and refused to wear a mask for any of the photo ops, even though it violated company policy and flouted an order issued by Gov. Whitmer, or "that woman from Michigan," as he once called her. (According to polling released last week, 80% of Michigan residents say they wear masks in public—all fools by Trump's standards.) The state's attorney general, Dana Nessel, had penned an open letter urging Trump to wear a mask and following his visit, Nessel told CNN: “The president is a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules, and I have to say, this is no joke." Naturally, Trump retaliated, calling Nessel “The Wacky Do Nothing Attorney General of Michigan" and endorsing a mass exodus of auto companies from the state.

  • During his speech at the plant, Trump mocked the company's premier sports car—the sleek $750,000 carbon edition GT—as too pricey, while Ford executive chairman Bill Ford Jr., and Ford CEO Jim Hackett stood beside him. “Bill was showing me some of those cars—it's incredible,” Trump said. “I wanted to buy one, then I heard the price. I said forget it. I said I'll use one on occasion. But what a car that is, huh? What a car.” What a sales pitch from the nation's chief executive.
  • Trump also gave a shout-out to all those neo-Nazis out there, playing up the "bloodlines" of Henry Ford, a known anti-Semite. “The company founded by a man named Henry Ford—good bloodlines, good bloodlines. If you believe in that stuff, you get good blood,” Trump said.

Let's recall that the last time Trump visited the state, he told a somewhat stunned crowd that the late Michigan Rep. John Dingell—a beloved politician and longest-ever serving congressman—was "looking up" from hell.

So yeah, to recap: Trump attacked every female member of Michigan's duly elected executive branch: governor, attorney general, and secretary of state; Trump illegally threatened to withhold voting funds from the state; Trump worked in a little praise for Ford Motor Company’s anti-Semitic roots while attacking its premier sports car; and Trump also previously attacked Michigan's recently departed favorite son, John Dingell.

Gosh, such a stumper that the more voters see of Trump, the less they like him. And by the by, polling conducted last week for the Detroit Regional Chamber found that 64% of Michigan residents approve of Whitmer's pandemic response, while just 43% say the same of Trump. Heckuva job, Trump. Looking forward to your next visit and November, in particular.

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